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Library lowers the risk of the risque

By Lee Barnes
lbarnes@salisburypost.comWhat’s the best way to discourage people from looking at pornography on library computers?
Put the computers where everyone else can see them.
After nearly 90 people were caught looking at pornography on its public computers in the first six months of this year, the Greensboro Public Library system took action. The library has installed a device that identifies porn sites and makes them load so slowly ó imagine a really bad dial-up connection ó that they are difficult to view.
Even with the device, there’s no real way to stop people from looking at offensive material on the computers. The device can’t stop people from viewing offensive e-mail attachments, or pornographic photos posted on social networking sites such as Facebook.
The Greensboro library had previously relied on staff monitoring and private security guards to stop pornography viewing. Staff members decided to invest in the device after a home school association complained the problem was so bad, kids couldn’t use the library anymore.
Jeff Hall of the Rowan Public Library says the best approach is to arrange library computers in such a way that the user has no privacy.
Rowan has about 60 computers for public use, and uses software to identify and block pornography Web sites. The system has been in place for several years.
Hall says that while the software is effective, people can still view R-rated material.
“People are always working around it,” he said. “It would typically be something like an e-mail with an explicit photo attached. Software can’t catch that.”
With the library system’s public computers closely monitored by library staff, Hall says offensive material “isn’t a big problem” for Rowan’s three libraries. If someone is caught, they’re given a warning. If they continue to misbehave, they lose their library privileges.

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